The French way to upgrade pipe installation projects: Les Chartes de Qualité.

Jul 16, 2008

In order to improve the quality of sewers pipe installation projects, the French Authorities and in particular the French water agencies have created a committee with all the main participants like Water Agencies, networks owners, engineering consultants, contractors companies, quality control companies and pipe suppliers.

A synoptic document called ‘quality charter’ gives a global philosophy of the project management where the responsibilities of each are well defined.

All the parties agree on:
  • Achieving the necessary preliminary studies,
  • Checking all the possible technical solutions,
  • Selecting all the participants according to the principle of the ‘best offer’.
  • Having time to prepare the job.
  • Implementing a quality process at every level
  • Controlling/ monitoring continuously and permanently every step.
Quality charters have shown their efficiency and are increasingly adopted all over France.
Water Agencies are the main actors in the financing of sewers jobs in France. They were created in the early 60’s to coordinate the investment programs in sewers, water treatment plants and more generally in water quality. They are financed by a tax based on water consumption. The product of this tax is ploughed back to the cities as subsidies or zero interest loans. The main interest of the Water Agencies is that they can help small cities to finance their sewers project.
Other partners can provide subsidies like Géneral council (at the level of a county in England) or Régional council (at the level of a land in Germany). The total subsidy a city can obtain is 80% of the amount of the investment (without VAT).
After years with only light controls, Water Agencies have observed they were financing the rehabilitation of projects accomplished only twenty of thirty years before. Sometimes, these projects were still in their technical expected life and sometimes the projects were not entirely reimbursed.
They wondered why this situation was happening and how to correct it.
We will develop these two points and also the measurement of their efficiency and the future of the ‘Chartes de Qualité’.
The main disfunctionment causes
In the 90’s, Water agencies were asked to finance rehabilitation projects on pipe installed only few years before.
A working group composed of network owners, consultants, contractors and suppliers constructors was asked to think at that point and propose solutions.
The disfunctionment are mainly:
  • Ground instability due to a lack of compacting of embankments above the pipe.
  • Incoming of clear water from the ground.
  • Incoming of rain water from houses or roads.
The reasons why it occurs were less easy to find.
  • The suppliers said that the items sold were produced according to the standards and that all is controlled at every stage of their production line. The fault was not on their side, but on the contractors’ who were making improper use of these.
  • The contractors said the job was done according to the construction rules. The problems are due to surprises during the work realisation like a high water table, bad soils and other networks up the project pipe.
    Most of all, they said that even if they observed a problem during the price estimation, it was difficult to take it into consideration if they wanted to bid with a correct prices and have a chance to be successful. The fault was not on their side, but on the consultant’s who was making a light study with deadlocks.
  • The consultant said the owners were always claiming that the prices were too high and refused to pay the complementary studies. So they were obliged to propose small budgets. The fault was not on their side, but on the owners’ who were always looking for lower costs even if it was not realistic.
  • Finally the owners said they were not informed by the other participants of the necessity to produce all this work During the negotiation phase, everybody agreed on the idea that all would be simple. Once the contract was signed a lot of difficulties appeared with all the extracosts. It has always been the same and it cannot change.
The reality is a mix of all these reasons. The objective is not to accuse one or the other. The objective is to propose solutions.
This is why the ‘Chartes Qualité’ were created.
The Charter's Principles
The principles are simple. They are based on the will of the water agencies to make good and long term investments. So water agencies prefer to finance a supposed more expensive project if they can expect a better durability of the pipe installed.
First of all, a control after the job’s realisation is imperative.
This control is made according to the European regulation and includes
  • Pressure test according to EN 1610 norm. This test is done on all the length of pipe and laterals. It includes also man holes and lateral holes.
  • Compaction test according to NF P 98-331 norm. This test is made for every segment between two man holes and on one lateral hole in four.
  • CCTV inspection of all the line and laterals.

All the tests have to be positive. In case they are not positive, justifications have to be given to the water agencies. If a test is negative and not corrected, subsidies or loans are not given to the owners and so to the companies/ contractors. This stringency has good results as we will see below.
If possible a meeting is organised at the end of the job to check all the difficulties observed, the solutions used and share experience between the actors.
Secondly, good studies in the design phase.
In order to have a better design project, preliminary studies have to be done.
According to French regulations consultants have to make some standard preliminary enquiries like:
  • Other network research by asking all the owners. As in many countries, the networks are not always precisely indicated on the maps and a job site survey can confirm their exact position of them.
  • Administrative verifications as position of the network according to the ‘SDA’1
  • Sewer and drainage rules approved by the owner.
The minimal added studies which have to be done are
  • Geological survey level 1. This survey includes a classification of the ground according to French regulations, a measurement of ground water table and proposal to reuse, if possible, in place ground as embankment.
  • Private parcel enquiry in order to determine how the networks are organised in private property. The expected points are the good (correct?) situation of the lateral position and the measurement of the risk of mixing sewer and rain water in case of separate networks.
According to the results of these preliminary surveys, other studies can be requested, such as
  • Geological survey level 2 or 3. These surveys have to determine special jobs adaptation to take in account the difficulties due to the water table or bad soil conditions and special embankment compacting solutions like the reuse of the cuttings.
Thirdly a choice of the best offer and not of the cheapest one
All the actors agreed on the fact that if the price is the only reference of the call of tender, it will be difficult to ask for high quality level.
In order to be clear that the owners want high quality jobs and not just a low price one, the call of tender says that the job will be done according to the Charts Quality procedures.
The idea is that a low price has more probability to be linked with a low quality job. The economy of some hundreds of Euros can mean shorter life time or more water intrusions.
Most of all, low price is highly connected with claims at the end of the work. In order to minimize this risk we want the contractors to make a close study of the job and to give solutions on.
According to the French regulations, a technical report specific of the particular job is asked of the contractors. This technical report must include the following data:
  • Global schedule including preparation of the job and time for controls.
  • Specific planning,
  • Precise description of the way the specific difficulties will be cleared, like ground water pumping,
  • Sustainable disposition for better environmental friendly measures, like reuse of the cutting,
  • Internal procedures for quality control.
Each item will have a mark between -2 (very bad development) and +2 (very good development). Each item has a special weight as indicated in the call for tender.
According to the wishes of the owner, the part of the price in the offer can be less than 50%.
Finally continuous checks made in association with the contractors
In France we test the jobs done according to the European recommendations. So we make the three conventional checks for pipes
  • Pressure test
  • CCTV inspection of the line
  • Ground compaction around the pipe.
These checks must be external and paid for by the owner.
They are usually done in one time once the job is completed. This means that if the tests are negative, the contractor has to come back to correct it. It is not always easy and need lots of discussions and loss of time.
In order to forestall problems, we ask companies to effect continuous monitoring during the execution. These checks are made as internal self control. So the faults can be corrected easily while the company is on site. It’s cheapest for the enterprise and less time consuming for the consultant.
The external test is made in two phases:
  • First a sample test once the first or two first segments are done. This sample test has the aim of making the foreman aware of the quality we will require at the end. It also aims to validate special procedures and most of all the compaction results when we reuse the on site earth.
  • The second phase happens once each main phase is completed (once a street is done for example or once ten or twelve segments are built).
The Measurement of their Efficiency
After some years, there was a strong resistance against the charts.
The system was criticized for the over costs due to the impact of the preliminary studies and the checks. In order to have a good view of the impact of the procedure on the costs, a study was given to an independent consulting company.

The results were the following:
1: The preliminary offers are more expensive than the conventional one.
It’s obvious that the design engineer having the preliminary data takes them into account. The call for tender is more precise and adapted with the job conditions.
The special job conditions are taken into account so the project price is a little higher.
It’s also obvious that once you give information to the contractors on ground conditions they take them into account. It is difficult for them to come back and make a claim on that point.
Obliging them to make a special technical report/ survey?, they observe the site difficulties and take them into account.
So the price is higher.
2: There are far less claims at the end.
The difference is due to the absence of claims made by companies. The consultancy having been better and the possibility for the having been minimised, we have far less claims.

We also find in the technical report good arguments to prove that the difficulties have been anticipated by the contractor and that the claim is not justified.
3: the final cost is similar to the conventional method cost
Give or take the various aspects, the final cost is very close to that obtained with previous mehods. Most of all, difficulties have been anticipated, quality problems have been solved all along the job’s time and there are few surprises with the final cost. That procedure offers more comfort for all the actors.
The Future of the Charters
Today, The Charters are developing in two main directions. They are growing nationally and towards other domains like trenchless technologies.
The national chart
At the beginning the charters were regional initiatives. There was the ‘Nord – Pas de Calais’, ‘Oise Aisne’ or Adour Garonne’ charts. Some of them are very active, other less.

Most of all, some owners want to realise their project according to these principles in regions where it doesn’t exist. In order to help them, a national was created which adopts the main principles as said previously.

This national is built as a guide detailing at every step what the owner, the consultant, the contractor, and the other participants have to do. This document is clear and easy to read.

This has been adopted by the main national organisms like all the water agencies, the syndicate of the consultants (SYNTEC), the national syndicates of public works (FNTP) and its pipe installation department, the main pipes producers, the syndicate of control companies (COFRAQ) and lots of others involved in pipe installation.
The adaptation to trenchless technologies
National have initially been created Fifteen years ago for sewer pipe installation. At that time, trenchless technologies were not developed in France.

Today trenchless rehabilitation has grown a lot and FSTT is trying to explain to the owners and financial providers the advantages of our techniques and how to adapt preliminary studies and building control For example, rehabilitation jobs needs a good CCTV inspection with film instead of private mapping of the laterals. The various inspection checks are the French adaptation of the European ones for every technique we can use.

The difficulty for this development is the number of techniques (soft or sleep lining, pipe bursting, …) that we can use and the specific studies asked to make the good choice. The other difficulty is the ignorance of the owners and sometime the consultants of the European norms. Numbers of them have not been adopted in French laws and even not been translated in French.
The Quality Charter is a tool created by a crew of partners including network owners, consultant, contractors, pipe suppliers and pipe controllers. This tool helps each of the actors to know what he has to do at every step of the design or realisation of the installation of new pipes. This procedure has to be adopted by all the people involved in pipe installation at a regional level.
The experience shows that thanks to the better design and the self imposed checks made by the contractors,
  • The rate of non compliance observed at the end of the job is far less high.
  • Most of all, the budget is more under control and it is more difficult for contractors to claim.
For these reasons, the are developing with the help of the French water agencies.
This development happens in two main ways:
  • A national has been written in order to help the owners in the regions where there is no regional chart. This national Charter has been adopted last September by all the main actors of pipe installation.
  • New have to be created for pipe installation or rehabilitation with trenchless technologies. A group made by the FSTT is working on it.
Because the principles governing them are strong and based on good sense, the can also be adapted in other domains like pressure pipe or energy cable installation.

1 Schema Directeur d’Assainissement or Main sewers organisation map.

René-Claude Fouilloux, Engineer at Agence de l’Eau Seine Normandie, Project leader at the ASTEE and FSTT.

JF Maregiano, Consultant at JFM Conseils (France), Member of the ASTEE and FSTT.

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René-Claude Fouilloux

92000 Nanterre, France


0141 20 16 00


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